When a colleague texted me on the morning of April 21 about something work-related, he casually and rather ungently appended "Prince died btw" to our exchange as though it was almost trivial. That was kind of a dick move, Ryan. Like, "oh btw God is dead and everything you've ever cared about is ruined TTYL."
It was so unbelievable that it had little impact at first. Couldn't possibly be true, did not compute, etc. And then as this fact wormed its cruel way into my reality, I started crying. The impossibly ageless, elfin, and saintly Prince Rogers Nelson was with us no more.
Prince and his music left the deepest ruts on my developing adolescent psyche, and that informed the rest of my development as a human being in profound ways. He was living proof that masculinity could be adorned with lace, that appreciation of and respect for women was a higher calling, that if you were funky enough, you could be the world's second most well-known Jehovah's Witness, with all its baggage and odd beliefs, and people would be amused rather than put off (not that that particular knowledge was all that useful).
I first recall hearing him on the radio in 1981, when I was 9 or 10, in the 1999 era. Certain lyrics stood out, like the "Little Red Corvette" line about how she had a pocket full of horses, and Trojans, some of them used. Scandalous to my fifth-grade mind, and in hindsight, totally gross. His long career had started years before, but all that was just prelude to his magnum opus, Purple Rain. For that film and album to arrive as it did at the cusp of my adolescence ensured the kind of foundational cultural imprinting that you never move on from—I knew very few things as a boy of 13, but I knew for absolute certain that I loved Prince, and that would never change.